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EAGM's dual exhibit launching party a big success

One artist was urging the public to look at Saskatchewan's farming community in a bold new way while another was asking them to find their feminine side.
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One artist was urging the public to look at Saskatchewan's farming community in a bold new way while another was asking them to find their feminine side.

The two artists stood side by side at the Estevan Art Gallery and Museum (EAGM) Friday night making their case in front of over 100 visitors who ate up the information they provided.

For Calgary-based artist with southeast Saskatchewan roots, Jean Pederson and Estevan-based Linda Gudmundson, the event couldn't have gone any better as they made their presence felt through their work and their individual presentations.

Pederson's substantial Farm Fragments exhibit is highlighted in the main gallery. She has seen her work displayed in China as well as in Buckingham Palace and in various venues around North America, and noted that "people get it," when they have the opportunity to view her current multi-media presentation that shows the rest of the world, a small corner of Saskatchewan she identified with near Bromhead.

The abandoned family farm where she often visited holds a special place in her heart as "an only child, so my cousins were my brothers and sisters."

Pederson said, "every time I came out here to visit the farm, to harvest material, I saw changes. I reflected on how hard these people must have worked, how many of them came away after years of struggle, with virtually nothing. I think of hail, combines, the fickleness of farming. I think of how they had a new life in Saskatchewan in a new country, how they worked so hard for their children's future," said Pederson.

She said that social fabric of the Saskatchewan farm is ever changing with larger tracts of land now being farmed corporately, and the layers of families who once worked the land are going down different paths.

Pederson's work contains everything from watercolours to abstract oils on canvas and board, collages and museum-like pieces of old and very real farm receipts, bankbooks, cheques, family photos, a video narrated by farming pioneers, and artifacts such as old farm home doors and now the Stepp family roof beam with the first names of the family members scratched into it decades ago by the family themselves. She visited the abandoned farm with cousin Wes Hanson, and retrieved the beam which will now become a part of the growing exhibit.

The current exhibit moved into Estevan from Red Deer, Alta. and was installed by EAGM staff in mid-month and will be on display until near the end of February.

"I still get a grain smell. I remember playing in the granary with my cousins and other kids and the mice," she said with a laugh. "What parent would let their kids do that these days?" she added.

The fragment exhibit, she admitted, didn't necessarily follow any rules. It allowed her to do memory painting from her childhood experiences including the barn "that my uncle managed to burn down by accident," she added with a guffaw.

The collage includes Polaroid transfers and letters that help relate the history of a farm home that was dear to her and so familiar to Saskatchewan's rural community.

For Gudmundson, hers is a study in Pink, which just happens to be the exhibit's label as well.

This exhibit, installed in the community gallery, features special pink boxes that may, or may not contain treasures that any girl or woman would love to claim.

"I'm connecting with other women using familiar objects," she said, of the pink clad jewelry boxes decorated with feminine illustrations.

"The different angle I've taken sparks conversation," she said. "But really, the theme is temptation. I give you a hint of what's in the box. If you open it, do you destroy the gift?"

Gudmundson said the exhibit might well serve as a metaphor for relationships.

She also noted that her background in graphic design is very evident in the exhibit, but she still enjoys the fact that "it's a crossover experience for me."

The Estevan artist, who has worked with a variety of media too, said the uneven tones leave the exhibit looking a little warmer, "not just the cold and sleek nature that you'd have with straight graphics."

"Is opening the box the rush, or what is inside is that the rush?" she asked.

There are 45 interesting boxes to examine in the exhibit. Some are set up sculpture like, while others are affixed.
"I've been doing watercolours on boxes for years. When I had the opportunity to get all these boxes, I jumped at it," said Gudmundson who has just completed a mentorship program with EAGM director/curator Griffith Aaron Baker and other artists from Regina and Saskatoon.

She said she enjoyed the creativity this exhibit offered her. She has turned her attention to some commissioned watercolour and mural work lately, but said she'll now find more time to explore these new avenues of artistic adventure as her art experiences evolve.

Gudmundson's exhibit, like Pederson's will remain on display in the EAGM until the end of February.